GPS Rangers Go National
More Trainees and Volunteers Needed for Growing Work
by Larry Broadwell

For years, PATC’s GPS Rangers have held classes on the handheld devices that many use for navigation. They have also surveyed trails in our region and collaborated with the club’s mapmakers to update and enhance the highly regarded maps and guidebooks we produce. As exhaustive survey work for PATC maps was ending, they began providing surveys to authorities who want to improve maps for public lands, such as the Lee District of Washington-Jefferson National Forest and Michaux State Forest.

Photo of GPS Ranger volunteers in ColoradoNow, a dozen GPS Rangers have been surveying in Colorado and Maine, and soon will head to Idaho and California. So far, they have volunteered for three National Forests and one National Monument. Work in four more National Forests is scheduled.
The work outside our region was initially prompted by the former supervisor of the Lee District, Katie Donohue, after she moved to Arapaho-Roosevelt National Forest, Canyon Lakes District, near Fort Collins, Colorado.  Knowing of the rangers’ work in Lee District, she requested a survey of trails in her new area. Rangers covered all the trails around Red Feather Lakes in 2016, Rawah Wilderness in 2017, and Comanche Peak Wilderness in 2018. That led to volunteer opportunities in Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument, where they were invited in 2019.

As word spread, Rangers were contacted by five additional National Forest managers this winter. There is a new push in National Forests to do assessments for all trails, and the Forest Service does not have the staff available for such a challenge. Having trained GPS surveyors who not only work for free but pay their own expenses seems to be the answer to NFS prayers. No money from PATC or NFS has ever been sought.

Typically, a national GPS Ranger group trip will be 7-10 days long. The work is both physically and mentally challenging. It is also extremely rewarding for those who like trail surveying, and the terrain the rangers have been exploring is, from all accounts, spectacular.

With increasing demand, new volunteers are welcome. Those interested in learning more about GPS devices and volunteering for local surveys, or in becoming one of the national traveling group are welcome to join the free GPS Rangers training class scheduled for March 21 and 22. For more info or to register, contact Jim Tomlin at  No equipment or experience is necessary.  Training units are available to use during the class.  If you do not have a GPS handheld, you should wait to buy one until after the class.

Photo: PATC GPS Rangers at Red Feather Lakes, Arapaho-Roosevelt National Forest, Colorado
Credit: Hunkerson T. Bear